Born Darryl Hill c. 1969 in Brooklyn, NY. Addresses: Record company--Sony Music, 550 Madison Ave., 31st Floor, New York, NY 10022. Website--Cappadonna Official Website: http://www.cappadonnafans.com.
Initially regarded as an honorary member of the superstar hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan, rapper Cappadonna came out from under Wu-Tang's wing to score his own musical achievements. He released his debut solo album Pillage in 1998. The album was an instant success, debuting at number three on the charts, and paved the way for his sophomore release, Yin and the Yang, in 2001.
Born Darryl Hill around 1969 in Brooklyn, New York, and raised on Staten Island, New York, Cappadonna attended grade school with the future members of the Wu-Tang Clan. He began to rap and write rhymes at age 15, though it would be another ten years before he would realize his dreams of success as a hip-hop artist. In the meantime, he sold drugs to pay the bills, and had run-ins with the law.
The Wu-Tang Clan has been one of the most successful and most prolific hip-hop acts since their 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). While the group as a whole was a force to be reckoned with in hip-hop, its solo members were each equally successful on his own. Group members Prince (RZA) Rakeem, Raekwon, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Genius (GZA), U-God, Master Killa, and Inspectah Deck each scored independent success that not only heightened the group's status, but also made gold--for a time--of every new artist they touched. Cappadonna finally began to make his way toward the core of the hip-hop world in 1995, when he was featured on Raekwon's solo album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. After that, he was considered an honorary member of the Wu-Tang Clan and was a frequent collaborator to its members' solo projects. He was featured heavily on Ghostface Killah's 1996 release Ironman, appeared on the 1997 Wu-Tang release Wu-Tang Forever, and was listed on the liner notes of W in 2000 as a member of the group, although his name did not appear on the group's official recording contract with Loud Records.
Cappadonna's solo debut, Pillage, was released in March of 1998. The album was produced by RZA and featured cameos by Method Man, U-God, and Raekwon. As with previous Wu projects, Pillage was an instant commercial success; it debuted at number three on the charts. Despite its instant rise, however, the album did not receive much radio airplay--mostly because it is chock-full of obscenities.
While Orange County Register critic Ben Wener praised most of the Wu-Tang offshoot projects, his review of Pillage was less than glowing. He called Cappadonna "another would-be Wu wonder who just can't seem to deliver the goods.... The beats are mildly interesting ... the sentiment is somewhat on target ... and Cappadonna has a plentiful holler" but "the record is just no fun." Cappadonna has made a "fatal mistake," Wener continued. "Even when Wu-Tang is at its worst (which isn't often), the dizzyingly intricate, Jeep-thumpin' tracks compensate for a lack of lyrical imagination. Cappadonna resorts to an arsenal of old-hat rhymes and sluggish beats. A disappointment."
Rolling Stone critic Matt Diehl wrote that Pillage "pulses with the ominous atmosphere filling these mean streets" of the Staten Island ghetto. Cappadonna explained the meanings and origins of a few of the album's songs in an interview with Diehl. The album's title song is about the struggles of inequality and Cappadonna provides "fifteen good reasons why you should be checking yourself," he said. The song "Run," he continued, is about running from the law and responsibilities. "That's the life I was living," he said, "constantly on the run but not going anywhere." "Slang Editorial" is "like a quick news flash, my editorial of the day's events," he said, explaining that "Slang is an expression of your thoughts, presenting them in your own way." "Supa Ninjaz" is a celebration of the creative magic and history that runs between the members of the Wu-Tang Clan, which Cappadonna likens to a group of superheroes. The rapper got serious on "Black Boy." He wrote the song after strolling the streets of his neighborhood, he recalled, and feeling like he was so conditioned to living in a criminal element that he was anxious about being arrested just for being there. "I don't know if the world is ready to hear my statement about a black boy," he speculated, "[t]he black boy is me."
Cappadonna released his follow-up album, Yin and the Yang, in 2001. "This album," he said in a biography published on the Sony Music website, "reflects the real me, the good and the bad, the sinful and the spiritual, in short, the Yin and the Yang." Yin and the Yang features a combined set of both message-oriented and just-plain-fun tracks. He cites the works of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, as well as the Torah, the Koran, and the Bible among his reading materials. "Bread of Life" features producer and rapper Neotek and rapper Killah Priest is about living spiritually through life's trials. "Save the Children" describes the despair of ghetto youth, and places the responsibility of rescuing them on society. The upbeat track "Love Is the Message," recorded with Raekwon, is less a thought-provoking message than a straight-up dance track, and "We Know" features Jermaine Dupri producing and the vocals of female emcee Da Brat. According to Ken Capobianco of the Boston Globe, the reggae-based "One Way 2 Zion" is "one of the disc's best tracks."
The album's first single, "Supermodel," featuring Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, addresses women's desires to be beautiful, and the men who exploit them because of it. "From an urban perspective," Cappadonna explains online at his official website, "it deals with the beauty of females, the fact that most of them want to be models, and how brothers use that mentality in relationships with them to do and get what they want.... My job is to make people think, or at least give them something real to think about."
by Brenna Sanchez
Began writing rhymes and rapping, c. 1984; appeared on Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, became the unofficial tenth member of the Wu-Tang Clan, 1995; heavily featured on Ghostface Killah's Ironman, 1996; appeared on Wu-Tang Clan's Wu-Tang Forever, 1997; released solo debut, Pillage, 1998; appeared with Wu-Tang Clan on W, 2000; released Yin and the Yang, released Iron Flag with Wu-Tang Clan, 2001.
- Selected discography
- (Contributor) Great White Hype (soundtrack), Sony, 1996.
- Pillage , Sony, 1998.
- Yin and the Yang , Sony, 2001.
- Cappadonna Hits (compilation), Sony, 2001.
- With Wu-Tang Clan
- Wu-Tang Forever , Sony, 1997.
- W , Sony, 2000.
- Iron Flag , Sony, 2001.
- With others
- (With Ghostface Killah) Ironman , Sony, 1996.
- (With Pete Rock) Survivor , RCA, 1998.
- (With Wu-Tang Killa Bees & RZA) Swarm Vol. 1 , Sony, 1998.
- Boston Globe, May 11, 2001, p. C14.
- Chicago Tribune, April 10, 1998, p. 2.
- Melody Maker, April 11, 1998, p. 44.
- Orange County Register (California), April 10, 1998, p. F56.
- Rolling Stone, April 30, 1998, p. 33.
- Time, December 11, 2000, p. 83.
- USA Today, December 20, 2001, p. D9.
- "Cappadonna," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 20, 2003).
- Cappadonna Official Website, http://www.cappadonnafans.com (February 20, 2003).